Saturday's 'Kid Captain': Trae Hamilton

Nov. 13, 2009

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Trae Hamilton of Urbandale, Iowa, is as good-natured and full of life as any 2-year-old. He is vocal and inquisitive and likes vegetables, fruit, yogurt, cereal, and macaroni and cheese. Unlike most 2-year-olds, though, he has his father’s kidney, thanks to the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital organ transplant team.

“We’ll have a lot to catch him up on when he’s able to understand,” says Trae’s dad, Travis Hamilton.

Trae was born with abnormal development of his urinary tract. He had abnormal kidneys, including a dual collection system on one side, and already had early stage kidney failure. In addition to high blood pressure, he was also passing substantial amounts of protein in his urine. He received treatment in the neonatal intensive care unit of the Des Moines hospital where he was born and then went home with his parents, Travis and Emily. Trae’s doctors continued to monitor his protein loss and treat his high blood pressure; and when he was around 9 months old, he had surgery to correct his malformed urethra and undescended testicles.

Meanwhile, Trae’s kidney specialist in Des Moines began to suspect his problems stemmed from a rare disorder called Denys- Drash syndrome, a mutation of the Wilm’s tumor suppressor (WT-1) gene. That led the family to UI Children’s Hospital, where extensive genetic testing confirmed the diagnosis. Because the genetic mutation that causes Denys-Drash inhibits tumor suppression, it was practically certain that, if left untreated, Trae would develop kidney cancer. “Once we found out it was a mutation of the WT-1 gene, Dr. Brophy was pretty adamant that Trae have both his kidneys removed by the time he was 2,” Emily says.

Finding a donor kidney for Trae didn’t take long–Travis was a good match and more than willing. He has described himself as “honored” to be able to donate a kidney to his son. “He’s our only child,” Travis says. “I didn’t want to ask anyone else to do it. I felt like he’s my kid and it’s my duty.” Once Trae reached a weight suitable to tolerate the complex surgery, father and son underwent simultaneous procedures as Emily waited anxiously. Happily, both Travis and Trae came through surgery and quickly recovered, each leaving the hospital sooner than expected.

The experience inspired Travis to get involved in promoting organ donation by volun¬teering in his community to raise money and awareness.

Trae has experienced some complications from the anti-rejection medications he must take each day, which has resulted in additional hospitalization. Even so, he is doing remarkably well. Travis and Emily feel blessed that his condition was diagnosed early and that he received expert care. “If it weren’t for the care and compassion of the doctors, nurses, and entire staff of UI Children’s Hospital, we would not be where we are today,” Travis says.